Weekly Roundup Friday 3 September 2010

Good morning

And hello from Pahrump, NV, where I'm staying in a surprisingly good Best Western with huge rooms complete with fridges and microwaves, but in which the internet is glacially slow.  I'd mentioned I'd be here for six nights in last week's newsletter, and was a bit gloomy as to what there would be to do in the area.

Well, as is always the case, there is always a reader who knows more about anywhere and anything than I do, and so I'd like to thank the reader who wrote in to advise about the presence of – how to put this delicately – 'houses of ill repute' in the Pahrump area.

That is perhaps good to know, and who knows, maybe it might make sense to do a Travel Insider special report on that topic, but it isn't likely to happen this time.  I'm going to be spending 10 – 12 hours a day in desert heat that is forecast to reach 105 degrees, starting from the awful hour of 6.30am Friday, and as one who hates the heat at the best of times, this promises to be as close to cruel and unusual torture as I ever hope to get.

My flight to Las Vegas again had the Alaska Airlines electronics nazis insisting that all electronics be switched off, in this case six minutes before they got around to closing the front door.  <sigh>

The good news is that the flight has Wi-Fi, and being in first class I've enough room to use my laptop comfortably.  Unfortunately, even first class passengers have to pay the $9.95 fee (for just over an hour of usage time on a not quite two hour flight) – that's a lot of money for little usage.

Bandwidth was quite good, however.  I tested it three times in flight; getting between 435kbpa and 1118 915kbps down and 255kbps up, the second time getting 1118kbps down and 170kbps up.   260kb down

Checking in for my flight was a bit of a novelty.  I was flying with two firearms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.  It was relatively straightforward – I had to sign a form at the Alaska checkin counter, and then take the bag to TSA and wait while they hand-inspected its contents, then lock up the gun case inside the bag.

Two items of note if this is something you might be doing too.  First, it seems the updated but unofficial requirement is to have a hard sided gun case that is locked with two padlocks rather than one.  I asked the TSA guy about this and he said 'well, if you only had one, I'd test your case to see if I could force it open'.  Being as how just about any plastic gun case can be forced open (no matter how many padlocks it has) it is clearly better to festoon it with two padlocks to start with and avoid what could be an embarrassing test.

Second, I had some problems with a couple of bottles of gun cleaner/solvent that were also in the bag.  These included the unfortunate word 'Inflammable' on their labels.  So first the TSA officer had to call a supervisor for a second opinion, then she had to go and find a manual to look up the exact ruling.  It seems the requirement is that they be stored inside a metal container, and fortunately they agreed that my semi-hardsided Heys plastic suitcase was close enough to a metal container, and let me travel with the gun cleaner.

Oh – one more thing.  It used to be that people would semi-seriously joke that the best way to ensure your bag did not get lost or stolen was to pretend to have (or truly have) a firearm in it, because the special tags on the bag and special handling would ensure the bag was bird-dogged all the way through the process to the baggage claim area at your destination.

That is no longer the case.  There is no visible indicator on the outside of the bag at all these days, and once the TSA have walked it through their inspection process, it merges in with all the other bags.  Curiously, it seems the reason for this is that in the past, the special flagging of suitcases with firearms in them actually increased the rate at which they were being stolen.

The issue of solvents was the only problem in what was otherwise a smooth procedure.  And in turn, there were no other surprises or challenges to confront the TSA official, unlike what happened to Customs officers at Bangkok Airport recently.  They opened a bag belonging to a woman flying to Iran and found it packed full of stuffed tiger toys – oh yes, and also, mixed in with the stuffed toy tigers, there was a real tiger too!  A two month old tiger, very sedated, was found in with all the toys.  The woman was unable to explain how it got there, and said she was carrying the bag for someone else.

I came across a fun little gadget last week.  It doesn't do much, but that is one of the appealing things about it.  The device is simple and straightforward, easy to install and easy to understand and use.  It is a driving style monitor – if you've ever wondered what your teen gets up to behind the wheel, this might help you answer that question.  And so :

This Week's Feature Column :  The Lemur SafeDriver Review :  Here's a simple easy to use device, and with no ongoing monthly monitoring fees that tracks three attributes of how a person is driving your car.  If you'd like to understand how your car is being driven, this might be a good solution.

Where's my (very small) violin?  A woman has filed a lawsuit in Seattle over an American Airlines flight in 2008 she was on.  The plane had a power problem, and switched to batteries, then encountered some moderate turbulence, and then diverted to land in Chicago due to the batteries being exhausted.

The plane landed safely and all passengers were okay and deplaned normally.  But now, two years later, Jewel Thomas is suing American Airlines because she was scared on the flight.

Apparently the other 150 or so passengers, scared or not, have not sought any recompense, but Jewel's being scared has now caused her to sue AA.  The poor delicate dear.

Details – and some very unsympathetic comments – here.

We're all much too familiar with the concept of 'air rage' and having unruly passengers kicked off flights.  But have you ever heard of 'cruise rage'?

Carnival recently had to kick 10 people off one of its cruises on Carnival Dream after violence broke out on the dance floor.  I've found two Youtube videos that give a flavor of what has happening here and here.  Not quite the cruising image that Carnival seeks to promote.

This is rather short this week.  I've some more, but will publish it next week.

One last thing.  We have another corporate supporter of The Travel Insider.  Thank you to the Miraval Resort in Arizona; I'll be sending you a message from them next week with a special offer in it.  Please remember, supporters are always very much appreciated.

Although I'm flying in and out of Las Vegas, I'm not spending any time there.  But just in case you might have any plans to visit there any time soon, maybe this list of the top ten things not to do in Las Vegas might be of interest.

Wish me luck in the desert, and most of all, I hope not to emulate this unfortunate gentleman.




1 thought on “Weekly Roundup Friday 3 September 2010”

  1. Have fun at Front Sight! It is a great training facility. Perhaps you could give us a review? I would love to hear about your experience.

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